Mike Yin doesn’t love the term “blue wave.” But the surge of midterm Democratic victories that won his party the U.S. House of Representatives may also be responsible for carrying the 32-year-old Asian-American into the state Legislature.
The opposition to President Donald Trump that galvanized Democrats around the country seems to have also swept through Teton County, flipping two seats previously held by Republicans.
“I think it means that overall the state is making progress,” said Yin, now the representative for House District 16, which covers the town of Jackson. “We put in the work, we had coordination, and I think it bodes well.”
Yin is a software developer and the state’s first Chinese-American legislator.
With Rep. Marti Halverson and Sen. Leland Christensen out, the local delegation to the state Legislature now consists of three Democrats — Yin, Mike Gierau and Andy Schwartz — and Jim Roscoe, an independent who previously served in the state House as a Democrat. Christensen ran for state treasurer but lost in the primary. Since Christensen, R-Teton, didn’t seek re-election to the state Senate, Gierau faced off with Republican Kate Mead for that seat. Gierau won with 6,008 votes to Mead’s 3,631. Yin, in turn, ran for Gierau’s former House seat.
“I’m still speechless,” Yin said. “I think it’ll be really great to be in Cheyenne with Jim, Andy and Mike. I’m really excited.”
He hopes to give young people and Democrats more opportunities to be engaged and stay in Wyoming.
Mead, who remains chairwoman of the Teton County School District board, attributed the left-leaning shift to President Trump’s behavior in office.
“I think every time the president opened his mouth,” she said, “votes were lost for Republicans.”
And in many cases the Democrats who ran in this year’s midterms were also younger than their Republican counterparts. At 32, by far the youngest in his party in Wyoming, Yin is the prime example.
Gierau recalled Yin spending a week or so in Cheyenne during the legislative session last year, working with himself and Schwartz. He said Yin attended meetings, worked and studied, and quickly decided he wanted to run.
“A lot of people said he’s too young, he hasn’t been around long enough, he doesn’t know enough people,” Gierau said. “And now he’s going to be our state representative.”
Yin’s opponent, Barbara Allen, is a former county commissioner with a longer reputation in Jackson Hole. But Gierau said Yin’s hard work paid off, earning him an 800-vote margin over Allen. Yin won 2,530 votes compared to 1,712 for Allen.
“Everyone says young people need to get involved,” Gierau said. “There’s a young person who stood up and won.”
Allen congratulated Yin.
“In all things I support the person working for their community and state,” she said. “We are better working together.”
In House District 22, which includes not only part of Teton County but also Sublette and Lincoln counties, three-term incumbent Republican Halverson lost her seat to independent Roscoe.
Though Halverson topped her opponent in Sublette and Lincoln counties, Roscoe gained a crushing lead of nearly 900 votes in Teton County. Overall, Roscoe won 2,495 votes compared with Halverson’s 1,983.
As a national committeewoman, Halverson said she’ll be in politics for the rest of her life, in one form or another.
“I’m sad to be out,” she said. “We lost a few good people around the state. But I’m hopeful for the voters of House District 22. Jim [Roscoe] told us that he’s pro-life, he’s pro-gun, he’s a fiscal conservative. So I’m hopeful.”
Roscoe could not be reached for comment.
Incumbent Rep. Schwartz, who beat Jackson investor Alex Muromcew, said he looks forward to applying what he has learned in the past four years in office to his upcoming term. Schwartz won 3,358 votes while Muromcew netted 1,979.
Schwartz had other things on his mind on election night. After learning of his victory he checked his phone constantly for updates from other legislators throughout the state to keep an eye on the big races.
“My real focus is on the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Ultimately, the national election is most important.”
Muromcew wished “the best of luck to Andy,” adding that “certainly we’re counting on him.” Now, he said, he’s off for a week of hunting.
“I think that’ll give me a good opportunity to ponder the future,” Muromcew said. “But you probably have not seen the last of me on the ballot.”
Voter turnout in Teton County is always considerably higher than the rest of the state and country. This year 11,852 ballots were cast in Teton County, amounting to 80.8 percent of 14,653 registered voters. For comparison, 63.2 percent of registered voters showed up to the polls during the last midterm election in 2014. Increases in voter turnout are projected to be a national trend this year.